Farmer must pay £30,000 over death of friend in fall from cowshed roof

A farmer has been ordered to pay a £30,000 court bill after a friend who was working for him died after he fell through a cowshed sky light.

East Wales Magistrates Court

Defendant Robert Latham, aged 64, of Knolton Farm at Overton, near Wrexham, admitted a health and safety charge following the tragedy in July last year.

David Alan Rees, 56, of Ruabon, was clearing the roof of moss when he fell, North East Wales Magistrates’ Court at Mold was told. Mr Craig Morris, prosecuting for The Health and Safety Executive, said a ladder had been used to go up onto the roof to clear moss from the guttering.

But there was no safe system of work in place and he fell. It was not known precisely when he fell but he was found on the floor of the cowshed under the sky light. An ambulance was called, he was taken to hospital, but died of his injuries.

Mr Morris said that with the moss on the roof it was very difficult to identify where the sky lights were. Mr Rees was a friend who worked for Latham on a casual basis.


There were no measures in place to prevent him falling off the roof or through the sky light, Mr Morris added. He said there was a bucket with moss on the floor which indicated Mr Rees had been up earlier to clear moss from the leaking guttering.

Mr Morris added there was not the slightest hint Latham had any disregard for safety matters on the farm. Defending barrister Mr James Buchanan said it was a genuinely tragic case.

“This is not a case where an individual has instructed another to do a task he was not prepared to do himself,” he said. “He thought he had a safe system of work in place. He didn’t.”

District Judge Gwyn Jones imposed a fine of £26,000 with costs of £3,922 and a £170 surcharge. He accepted an offer of £500 a month. The judge said the case concerned was a tragic accident in which a much-loved friend and casual worker Mr Rees lost his life.

He had worked at the farm for many years and also kept his collection of Minis which he was doing up in a building.